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Homicide and the death penalty in the united states

The objective evidence the Court looks for is the legislative judgment of the states and the behavior of sentencing juries ; the subjective evidence the Court looks for is the extent to which a particular death penalty serves the goals of retribution and deterrence.

Examining nearly the same question a mere five years apart, the Court came to two different conclusions—that the Eighth Amendment allows the death penalty for felony murder in some cases but not others, and that the dividing line is the situation presented by Tison. Legislative judgments of the states[ edit ] In Coker v. Georgia[3] the Court had rejected the death penalty for rape because only one state— Georgia —allowed that punishment.

  • New Jersey and New York ended the death penalty in the latter part of 2007 and will not be counted as death penalty states in 2008;
  • This enumeration was not as simple as it might seem at first;
  • In Tison, however, the fact that since Enmund, state appellate courts continued to review and approve death sentences for defendants convicted of felony murder who were major participants in the underlying felony and had exhibited extreme indifference to human life persuaded the Court that juries still considered the death penalty an appropriate punishment for at least some defendants convicted of felony murder;
  • Justice Brennan on those who do not intend to kill[ edit ] Justice Brennan concurred in the result in Enmund but dissented in Tison because he believed that there was a measurable difference between one who acts intentionally and one who acts merely recklessly.

Accordingly, the task for the Court was to count the number of states that allowed the death penalty for felony murder to see if the death penalty was a comparatively rare sanction for that crime. This enumeration was not as simple as it might seem at first. In 1982, 36 states authorized the death penalty.

In four, felony murder was not a capital crime.

  1. The rule fashioned by Enmund and Tison accommodated this concern by ensuring that only felony murder defendants who had a sufficiently culpable mental state received the death penalty. Legislative judgments of the states[ edit ] In Coker v.
  2. New Jersey and New York ended the death penalty in the latter part of 2007 and will not be counted as death penalty states in 2008.
  3. In Enmund the Court recited that of 362 appellate decisions since 1954, only 6 involved a death sentence for a nontriggerman convicted of felony murder, and all 6 executions took place in 1955. Also, as of October 1, 1981, there were 796 people on death row in the United States, of whom only 3 had been sentenced to death absent a finding that the defendant had actually killed someone or intended that a killing take place.
  4. Nevertheless, the Court observed in Tison that of the states that authorized the death penalty for felony murder, only 11 forbade it even for major participants in the felony who exhibited reckless indifference to human life. In fact, the figures would suggest it's just the opposite.

In 11 others, proof of some culpable mental state was an element of capital murder. In 13 states, aggravating circumstances above and beyond the fact of the murder itself were required before imposing the death penalty. This left eight states—out of 36—allowed the death penalty for merely participating in a felony in which a murder was committed. The Court concluded that this evidence "weighs on the side of rejecting capital punishment for the crime at issue"—felony murder for a minor participant who did not actually kill anyone or intend to kill anyone.

  1. In Enmund the Court recited that of 362 appellate decisions since 1954, only 6 involved a death sentence for a nontriggerman convicted of felony murder, and all 6 executions took place in 1955.
  2. In 1982, 36 states authorized the death penalty. By the time of Tison, some state supreme courts had expressly interpreted Enmund to allow the death penalty in these cases.
  3. Also, as of October 1, 1981, there were 796 people on death row in the United States, of whom only 3 had been sentenced to death absent a finding that the defendant had actually killed someone or intended that a killing take place. The Times reports that ten of the twelve states without the death penalty have homicide rates below the national average, whereas half of the states with the death penalty have homicide rates above.

By 1987, the counting of the states had shifted. In response to Enmund, four states had modified their capital punishment statutes to reject the death penalty for murder committed in the course of a felony when the participant exhibited reckless indifference to human life. Nevertheless, the Court observed in Tison that of the states that authorized the death penalty for felony murder, only 11 forbade it even for major participants in the felony who exhibited reckless indifference to human life.

By the time of Tison, some state supreme courts had expressly interpreted Enmund to allow the death penalty in these cases. Sentencing decisions of juries[ edit ] "The jury.

In Enmund the Court recited that of 362 appellate decisions since 1954, only 6 involved a death sentence for a nontriggerman convicted of felony murder, and all 6 executions took place in 1955. This was comparatively rarer than death sentences for rape, of which there had homicide and the death penalty in the united states 72 between 1955 and 1977. Also, as of October 1, 1981, there were 796 people on death row in the United States, of whom only 3 had been sentenced to death absent a finding that the defendant had actually killed someone or intended that a killing take place.

In Tison, however, the fact that since Enmund, state appellate courts continued to review and approve death sentences for defendants convicted of felony murder who were major participants in the underlying felony and had exhibited extreme indifference to human life persuaded the Court that juries still considered the death penalty an appropriate punishment for at least some defendants convicted of felony murder.

Felony murder and the death penalty in the United States

Retribution and deterrence[ edit ] Faced with the objective evidence suggesting that legislatures and sentencing juries did not uniformly reject the death penalty for all defendants convicted of felony murder, the Court had to limit the death penalty to a discrete and narrow category of felony murder defendants based on its estimation of which category would best effectuate the goals of retribution and deterrence.

The Enmund Court stressed that the propriety of the death penalty must be measured in light of Enmund's own conduct. The Tison Court added that historically, the individualized determination incorporates an assessment of the mental state with which the defendant commits a crime, because a more culpable mental state merits a more severe punishment.

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North Carolina, [4] the Court had struck down a mandatory death penalty statute because it failed to provide for individualized consideration at sentencing. The rule fashioned by Enmund and Tison accommodated this concern by ensuring that only felony murder defendants who had a sufficiently culpable mental state received the death penalty. In an earlier case the Court had remarked that "capital punishment can serve as a deterrent only when murder is the result of premeditation and deliberation.

  • This left eight states—out of 36—allowed the death penalty for merely participating in a felony in which a murder was committed;
  • The average of murder rates per 100,000 population in 1999 among death penalty states was 5;
  • Accordingly, the task for the Court was to count the number of states that allowed the death penalty for felony murder to see if the death penalty was a comparatively rare sanction for that crime;
  • The Tison Court added that historically, the individualized determination incorporates an assessment of the mental state with which the defendant commits a crime, because a more culpable mental state merits a more severe punishment;
  • If the death penalty is to be reserved for the worst murderers, Brennan believed in maintaining the distinction between an intentional act and a reckless one;
  • In 13 states, aggravating circumstances above and beyond the fact of the murder itself were required before imposing the death penalty.

Justice Brennan on those who do not intend to kill[ edit ] Justice Brennan concurred in the result in Enmund but dissented in Tison because he believed that there was a measurable difference between one who acts intentionally and one who acts merely recklessly. Both cases had one crucial fact in common—neither Enmund nor the Tison brothers had committed an act of murder. Enmund had been in the getaway car; the Tison brothers had been fetching a jug of water for the Lyon family.

  • Nevertheless, the Court observed in Tison that of the states that authorized the death penalty for felony murder, only 11 forbade it even for major participants in the felony who exhibited reckless indifference to human life;
  • Murder Rates in Death Penalty States and Non-Death Penalty States The murder rate in non-death penalty states has remained consistently lower than the rate in states with the death penalty, and the gap has grown since 1990.

If the death penalty is to be reserved for the worst murderers, Brennan believed in maintaining the distinction between an intentional act and a reckless one. For Brennan, then, it was incongruous for the Court to hold in Tison that putting someone to death who had acted recklessly would.

Brennan also faulted the Court for ignoring the states that had abolished the death penalty altogether when counting the states that authorized the death penalty for felony murder.